Co-working space to bring tech firms, lawyers together to develop solutions

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justice See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts, at the State Courts' annual Workplan Seminar yesterday, where new initiatives were announced. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Lawyers and technology companies can come together to develop techenabled solutions for the legal sector in a new co-working space when the new State Courts Towers opens its doors next year.

The new space, roughly the size of two courtrooms, or 470 sq m, will be managed by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL).

It will cater mainly to small law firms with fewer than five lawyers, said Justice See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts.

The space will also be open to tech start-ups, academics and students who can collaborate with the lawyers to develop tech solutions for the legal profession.

The aim is to develop solutions to improve access to justice, he said at the State Courts' annual Workplan Seminar yesterday.

"The combined ecosystem will be conducive for legal professionals and technology start-ups to work together, where they may redesign processes, share information on court-user needs and co-create practical tech-enabled solutions," said Justice See.

The co-working space, on the 21st floor of the State Courts Towers, will also provide more convenient access to pro bono legal services for the man in the street, he added.

  • Updates on State Courts' initiatives last year

  • Community Justice and Tribunals System, an online case filing and management system for small claims

    • More small claims filed online in the first 12 months, compared with the 12 months before the launch of the system in July 2017.

    • Out of 1,725 small claims filed for e-negotiation, 35 per cent reached an amicable settlement.

    Pre-prosecution protocols for town council prosecutions

    • The protocols set out frameworks requiring town councils to first negotiate and engage potential defendants before initiating prosecution as a last resort. These offences mainly relate to non-payment of service and conservancy charges, as well as breaches of town council by-laws.

    • Since the protocols were implemented in March last year, the number of prosecutions by town councils has fallen by an average of 43 per cent.

    Friends Engaging and Supporting (Frens) scheme

    • This scheme is a befriender programme to help former offenders jailed for shorter terms re-integrate into society.

    • It has handled 30 cases since its launch in March last year.

With operational costs reduced from the shared amenities and facilities, law firms can focus on improving their legal practice and provide affordable legal service.

While applications will be open to all law firms, preference will be given to lawyers with a strong record in pro bono work, said SAL. In the first phase, Clicks @ State Courts will have space for rent for about 40 lawyers and 20 tech start-ups, academics and students. An information session will be held by the end of the month, it said.

The 35-storey State Courts Towers, next to the current State Courts building in Chinatown, and made up of two interconnected towers, will house 53 courtrooms and 53 hearing chambers.

When it opens next year, it will also boast technological features such as a live transcribing system developed by A*Star, which will increase efficiency of court proceedings and reduce legal costs.

The system, to be piloted in two courtrooms in the existing State Courts building, is able to recognise the Singaporean English accent, common legal terms and jargon, as well as transcribe the speeches of multiple speakers simultaneously.

To stay relevant in the digital age, the State Courts will also ramp up its data analytics capabilities and train its staff in digital literacy.

This is so that the State Courts' workforce remains relevant to "avoid risks of redundancies", said Justice See.

He added that staff will be provided with digital skills and knowledge of digital technology, as well as resources to apply these skills.

Charmaine Ng

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline Co-working space to bring tech firms, lawyers together to develop solutions. Subscribe